It’s hard to put into words exactly what my 200-hour yoga teacher training meant to me, but the past 15 weeks really have been an eye-opening experience in all realms – physically, mentally, emotionally and even spiritually.
I had the intention to write about my journey right after it ended, but realized I needed some time to let everything sink in before I could form my final thoughts on the impact it had on me. It was a lot to take in at the time, and still is a lot to process even after you’re holding your certificate in hand weighing what you should do with it next.
As I reflect back on my own experience though, I think there is this common notion that going through yoga teaching training will change you in a way that you come out the other side a completely different person, but that’s not really the case (at least it wasn’t for me). It’s the same idea that switching jobs, moving to a different state or whatever else you’re seeking next will be the “thing” that finally makes you happy, but if you don’t take care of yourself first and work to fix what is holding you back, then you just end up carrying all of that negative weight into your next venture.
This is something that came to light for me when I crashed into my lowest low halfway through training. I realized that you really do bring everything with you to any new experience (the good and the bad), and that you have to make choices along the way to clear out what no longer serves you at this time in your life to find a way to move forward.
I think this is something that will always need continual maintenance, but yoga teacher training definitely helped me tap into the deeper parts of my being to focus on what I needed to work on internally and brought back a light in my life where everything once felt stagnant before. Even when I walked the line of feeling on top of the world some days to soaking in my own pile of uncertainty and doubt on others, this experience really did wake me back up again.
Why I Choose To Go Through Yoga Teacher Training & Finding The Right Program
The idea of teacher training had been in the back of my mind for a while now. I’ve always enjoyed yoga, but it wasn’t until a couple of years ago when I was healing from sciatica pain that I started practicing more seriously and wanted to deepen my own knowledge around it.
I loved not only how I felt physically after I practiced, but how I was able to use my breath as a tool to work through my own anxiety and calm the constant chatter going on inside my head. In a way, yoga kind of opened this portal for me to heal and transform parts of myself that I had neglected for so long.
The idea of being on the other side guiding people in their own practice still scares me shitless, but the main reason I decided to go through yoga teaching training was essentially to give back everything that yoga has given me.
I had a previous background in leading group fitness classes, but teaching yoga seemed like a whole new ball game I wasn’t sure if I was quite prepared for. It wasn’t until I met this one teacher in particular (shout out to you Erin) who inspired and challenged me in such a way that I decided to fully jump in and not look back.
There was a lot of research involved in deciding if this was for sure what I wanted to do because to no surprise, yoga teacher training is not cheap and can be a huge time commitment outside of a full-time job. After weighing the time and cost involved, I sought out a few recommendations from people around the area who had gone through teaching training and also through my own online searches before I found one that felt like the right fit for me.
Choosing the right program for yourself is so damn important though, and I can’t stress that enough. You are, and should be 100 percent picky here! I knew I wanted a place that was going to push me outside of my comfort zone to really teach me how to teach, along with a good chunk of messaging/philosophy because that’s what I benefit the most from when I’m in class beyond the physical practice.
Before I chose the studio that I did, I took a few of their classes beforehand to get a better sense of the space, the teachers, the teaching style and the community of people who practiced there. Doing this is what reinforced why I wanted to go through training in the first place and also helped me feel like I was making the right choice on where I wanted to continue my education.
The Highs And Lows Of Yoga Teacher Training
I experienced what felt like an euphoric wave of clarity in the beginning of training. I honestly can’t recall the last time I felt more in tune with my body and mind than when I first started this journey. It was amazing to witness the positive effects taking place both on and off the mat that I almost thought it was too good to be true.
Most days I was on a total high after one of our sessions, feeling completely at peace with myself and where I was heading in the next chapter of my life. I was not only growing my physical practice, but also mentally, emotionally and spiritually as well. I spent so much of the last few years disconnected and disengaged that it was refreshing to finally be learning more about something I was deeply interested in and being around people who felt the same way.
There were even moments where I surprised myself, like how quickly I was able to allow myself to open up and be vulnerable, or how I noticed the subtle changes in how I reacted to the world around me. This shift I was making finally felt like some sort of progress where I was no longer just being a passenger in life, but instead, playing a more active role in choosing what I wanted for myself.
Now I’d be lying if I said there weren’t any lows during my training because there definitely was. There were times where I struggled to feel connected to what I was doing. I questioned why I was there, if I was worthy enough to teach others and if I choose the right path after all.
Through the second half of my training, I found myself disappointed by the expectations I set for myself and for what I thought this experience was supposed to be like. I placed so much attachment into these expectations, that I allowed it to take the front seat of my experience rather than take it one day at a time for what it was. All of this caused me to be more confused and uncertain when I found things not measuring up to what I thought they were going to be like. Because of that, I didn’t know how to respond to it, so I kind of shut down for a while.
I had an idea that I would be tested physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, but I don’t think I was prepared to be emotionally put through the ringer (mostly from my own doing) like I did. I was so excited about everything I was learning and involved with, but I still struggled getting myself to read the material and practice teaching. Maybe I had just reached a point of exhaustion, but I felt myself giving up on me and this whole process that it took a lot of my own doing to get out of this low and come out on the other side stronger.
What Yoga Teacher Training Taught Me & The Things I Learned Along The Way
1. Your priorities will begin to shift
You will pour a lot of yourself into this training, so much that you will begin to notice a shift in what’s important to you and what’s not. I went through a lot of self-reflection during this time, that I began to notice how I was placing too much of my energy in places that didn’t actually deserve it. This process really forced me to turn inward, and figure out how I needed to start showing up for myself and participating in life again.
This is now a personal intention I have set for myself as a means to remember to not only check in with myself daily to see how I am doing, but also to play a more active role in my life. This shift in priorities is something I think we all know deep within ourselves, but teacher training helped bring this to light again.
2. You’ll learn to get comfortable teaching in front of a group of people right away
This one actually makes me laugh because I would never classify getting up in front of a group of people and speaking as something you ever feel “comfortable” doing. Maybe that’s just my anxiety and introvert speaking, but it’s true. While not everyone goes through teaching training with the intent to teach, this is a chance to step outside of your comfort zone right away.
Now I can’t speak for all training programs, but something I appreciated from the one I was a part of was how after we learned something new (e.g. Ujjayi breath, Sun A, etc.), we immediately got up in front of everyone or in a small group to teach it right away.
Not going to lie, it was kind of terrifying at times, and as you can image a lot of self-doubt and fear starts creeping in around this point. No one is alone in feeling that way, but something I found particularly helpful when this would happen was actually from an exercise we did as part of one of our philosophy sessions.
We were told to think of the first thing we tell ourselves when we go to try something new, or when we get up in front a class and teach. Nine times out of 10, our first thought is usually a negative one (surprise, surprise). But whatever the thought may be, you then follow it up with a positive affirmation to help realign yourself in times when doubt starts to takes over.
For example, my first thought always tends to be, “Why am I doing this… there are people out there who could do this so much better than me”. In turn though, I repeat to myself “I am enough” to know that who I am and what I have to give is enough in itself.
3. You will feel overwhelmed at times
You are going to cover a lot in a short amount of time, and it will get overwhelming. Between learning about the history of yoga, alignment/pose breakdown, messaging, sequencing, anatomy, philosophy, Sanskrit, breathing exercises to practice teaching to your peers, you will discover new elements of yoga that will give you a whole new appreciation for the practice.
Additionally, you will be tested in all realms. Your body and mind will be pushed to its limit straight from the beginning. No program is the same, but the one I was involved with we met anywhere from two to four times a week to train, had to take four yoga classes a week on top of that, do additional reading and assignments outside of class, observe classes, volunteer and reflect upon it, and so much more.
It will sort of feel like a full-time job on top of your full-time job, and your body and brain will be screaming for a break, but it’s 100 percent worth it all!
4. New relationships will form
I don’t think I could have asked for a better group of women to be surrounded with during this time. Many of us came from different backgrounds, but it was this common bond, passion and like-minded thinking that really brought us together.
It surprised me how open I was able to be in a room full of people I didn’t know at first. Not only that, but within a relatively short amount of time it seemed like all of us were able to shed this protective layer we keep up to be more open toward each other and this experience. We all allowed ourselves to be vulnerable knowing that we were still growing and learning by showing up and being there.
Even at times when I struggled feeling connected to this experience and wondered if I also struggled forming a connection with those around me as well, I realized how strong of a bond we really did create with each other by the end of training. I will forever treasure these new relationships formed, and how they will continue to carry over even after training is done.
5. Things will get weird and uncomfortable at times, but embrace it
Not joking, you will do some weird shit at times, but you will learn a lot about yourself in the process.
Besides learning the core elements of yoga, you will do a series of exercises throughout training that will remind you that it’s OK to be vulnerable and to be in your body.
One exercise in particular that resonated with me was when we had to sit knee to knee with someone in our training group and look them in the eyes while we were presented with a series of questions to reflect on internally. As you can imagine, it’s very uncomfortable at first and you’re doing everything in your power to not break focus and laugh in the beginning to eventually not being a sobbing mess toward the end.
There is something to be said though about the shift in emotion you feel internally for yourself and the person across from you as you’re asked to think of your happiest memory, your saddest memory and all of your hopes and dreams. Watching the emotion drop in my partner’s eyes when she was asked to think of her saddest memory, made me feel like I was there experiencing it with her as she was with mine. By the time we got to the hopes and dreams question, I found myself not only thinking about all of mine, but hoping that the girl sitting across for me would reach all of hers too as she stared back at me.
This exercise, along with some of the others we did reminded me that we are all human. Even while most of us have completely different stories that have defined us up to this point, we all experience similar emotions and are made of the same thing. It may be weird at first to let yourself fully be there in that moment and be vulnerable, but it’s a chance to reflect in a way that we don’t normally get to do in our day to day life and embrace what makes us feel uncomfortable in order to really grow.
6. You will get out, what you are willing to put in
This should be a given, but you will most certainly get out what you are willing to put in. If I haven’t said this enough already, you will cover a lot in a relatively short amount of time, but no one is going to force you to do the work or hold your hand through the process. It’s up to you to read the material, do the assignments, practice teaching and put in the time and effort in getting what you want out of this experience.
Something I’m thankful that I did during these 15 weeks was keeping a journal where I would check in with myself daily or weekly on how I was feeling, along with a log of the classes I took to document what I liked from each one. Looking back, it was helpful to see how I felt during that time frame, along with a whole stockpile of new poses, sequences and messages that I could potentially build upon and use as my own in the future.
Even after you graduate and are holding that certificate in your hand, it’s up to you continue learning and growing after training is done. Keep up on reading the material and discover new outlets to explore. Meet up with people from your training session to practice teach and message. Create your own at home practice if you don’t already have one. Assign yourself one pose a day where you break it down to see how it feels in your body, so you are better able to cue other people doing the same pose. Honestly, whatever you choose to do there are a lot of ways to continually put in the effort to keep growing before, during and after training ends.
Everything Coming Full Circle
Going through yoga teacher training really brought everything full circle for me. Even between the reason I choose to go through training, the highs and lows experienced and the lessons learned along the way, this whole experience helped bring back a light to my life that had been missing for a long time.
There is still so much I need to work on internally to keep this flame burning, but this is just the beginning of working on me and giving back everything yoga has given me. Choosing this route will always remain one of the best decisions I could have made during this time in my life, and I hope my experience and lessons I learned can bring light to whoever is considering going through teacher training themselves or wanting to learn more about the process.
No one’s experience is ever going to be the same, but I think the biggest takeaway from all of this is that even when you don’t feel ready to do something new for whatever reasons you’ve made yourself believe so deeply, it’s up to you to push past your own limitations and trust yourself enough to know that you are capable of doing anything.
Stay curious, be present, travel often.